September 10, 2016 • Cee • Reviews


[note note_color=”#fdfe8d” text_color=”#000000″]Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer •  August 30, 2016 • Dutton Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
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Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc.

Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation. As the seniors continue to pop like balloons and the national eye turns to Mara’s suburban New Jersey hometown, the FBI rolls in and the search for a reason is on.

Whip-smart and blunt, Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it while trying to make it to graduation in one piece. It’s an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard from the President of the United States.[/note]


[note note_color=”#BFD1D1″ text_color=”#ffffff”]I received this book for free from Penguin for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.[/note]

First sentence: “When Katelyn Ogden blew up in third period pre-calc, the janitor probably figured he’d only have to scrub guts off one whiteboard this year. “

When your classmates start spontaneously combusting, you have a problem on your hands. That’s what happens to Mara Carlyle and her high school.

Seniors at Covington High School are blowing up for no particular reason. Is it because of drugs? A virus? Is it a terrorist attack? A government conspiracy? What is going on? These students are subjected to medical tests, quarantine, and media attention, but nobody—not the people living in the town nor the FBI—can figure out why these students are spontaneous combusting.


  • Students are spontaneously combusting for no reason.

It’s not just one or two students blowing up. It’s multiple. You’re in a therapy session, and one of the kids explode. You’re talking to your dealer, they blow up. You’re at a football game, the asshole footballer explodes between his best friends. Nobody is safe. The number of the senior class spontaneously combusting grows higher and higher, and nobody can figure out why. It’s a strange epidemic for the senior class at Covington High, and everybody’s afraid.

  • Mara is full of snark and jokes.

Love her or hate her, Mara is one of a kind. She’s blunt, honest, and snarky. She makes a lot of inappropriate jokes about her fellow classmates blowing up. She’s very strong, not letting any of these spontaneous combustions get to her. She’s the definition of an unreliable narrator, and she knows it and she tells you since she breaks the fourth wall a bunch of times. At times though, I questioned whether a teenage girl spoke the way she did.

  • Blink, and a romance occurs.

Yes, it was that fast. Mara falls for the weird, yet mysterious Dylan (who’d was rumored to have burned down a convenience store and have three kids) after he sent her texts commenting on the spontaneous combustions she witnessed. If you’re not a fan of instant romance, sorry to say Spontaneous has it, but as someone who loathes them, I didn’t really mind it in this because 1. they’re teenagers and 2. they’re in an intense life-threatening situation. It’s not unbelievable that it happened. I honestly didn’t care about the romance; I wanted more friendships and to know what the hell is going on.

  • Hearts will be yearning more for the female friendship.

Mara’s friendship with her best friend Tessa is everything you ever want in your own friendships. Full of support and love. These girls lift each other up, and never let anything get in the way of their friendship. It’s sweetness. I also loved that Mara idolized FBI agent Carla Rosetti to the point where she’d declare her love for this woman.

  • It’s very weird and gruesome. 

Kids spontaneously combusting? That’s very weird. Nobody knows why it’s happening, and we’re thrown into this weirdness trying to figure out what the hell is going on along with these students. It will mess with your head a bit.

  • It leaves you with more questions than answers.

Unfortunately, Spontaneous doesn’t exactly answer all your burning questions like why these kids are spontaneously combusting, which is okay if you’re into the ~larger message the book doles out. There were many plot holes that I couldn’t ignore. I wasn’t satisfied not knowing the reasons the students blew up.

Should you read Spontaneous? Maybe. What’s not intriguing about spontaneous combustion? It’s a weird occurrence that you probably didn’t know exist. At Covington High School, students in their senior year are blowing up has become a normal, yet horrifying occurrence. (It’s really an epidemic.) You’ll find yourself asking what the hell is going on in this weird and dark, yet funny and slightly raunchy book. However, it loses it’s way halfway through the book, and you will have more questions about this spontaneous combustion than answers.


2 Responses to “(ARC) REVIEW • We All Blow Up (Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer)”

  1. Kyra Morris says:

    It definitely sound like a unique book but I don’t think I’d enjoy it much because it sounds *slightly* too gruesome for me and I also like getting answers haha! Great review! :)

  2. Alexa S. says:

    Spontaneous sounds like a really odd read, but there’s still something so compelling about reading to find out why things are happening. I think that’s probably what would carry me through to the end if I ever decided to pick up this one! That, and the main character, who sounds so fun to read about.

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